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Where Is the Mango Princess?: A Journey Back from Brain Injury
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Where Is the Mango Princess?: A Journey Back from Brain Injury

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,252 Ratings  ·  168 Reviews
Humorist Cathy Crimmins has written a deeply personal, wrenching, and often hilarious account of the effects of traumatic brain injury, not only on the victim, in this case her husband, but on the family.

When her husband Alan is injured in a speedboat accident, Cathy Crimmins reluctantly assumes the role of caregiver and learns to cope with the person he has become. No lon
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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Kristen Spangler
Jul 08, 2014 Kristen Spangler rated it it was amazing
I am the daughter of a TBI survivor. My father was gravely injured in a car crash during my freshman year of college, and like Ms Crimmins' husband, failed to receive adequate rehabilitation due to the restrictions of his HMO. In an even greater parallel, my father was also let go from his job, and my mother was forced to take on the role of advocate in addition to those of caregiver, mother, counsellor and, of course, makeshift father. I strongly identify with Cathy Crimmins' story as it more t ...more
Sep 28, 2007 Joanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, brain-injury
I loved this book. It's the story of a man who suffers a traumatic brain injury, as told from his wife's point of view. The book does such a great job of telling the family's story, what it's like to live with someone who has become a completly different person.

I think a lot of times the focus is on the person coming out of the coma but people often don't realize that the person doesn't just wake up fine and back to normal. This book does a really good job of describing the rehab process and th
Jan 17, 2008 Ray rated it it was ok
Where is the Mango Princess? is a truly touching but tragic account of Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI) and its impact on a family. As much as I respect Anne Lamont, I wonder at her comment, at least as it appears on the book cover blurb, that this is a story of `recovery.' What exactly has been recovered? And how redemptive has this been in the lives of Cathy Crimmins and her husband Alan? Surely Cathy has had to address her once `hands-off' approach to marriage and has chosen to become a truly sac ...more
tip: however cleverly written, do not read a memoir about caring for someone rehabilitating from traumatic brain injury when you are going to sleep, if you want to sleep and not panic all night about losing everyone you love and impermanency in general.

this might win for book most intertwined with my life, in geography, characters, and theme. cameos from dmitri of dmitri's restaurant, the lombard swim club, philadelphia school, penn law school, magee and magee riverfront, west philly indian rest
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
I have a fascination with books that document how people cope with tragedy and awful events in their lives. This is one of those books. The synopsis of the book and other reviews here provide the details of the awful events in this book that occurred in 1996, so I won't dwell on that. TBI is some bad stuff to deal with, certainly for the person who has it, but perhaps even more so for the caregiver. And when the person with TBI is your husband, as it is in this book, you realize that the person ...more
Jan 30, 2017 Sarah rated it it was amazing
It is crass to call a personal account like this and call it a "page-turner" but it was truly that: a page turner. The author's retelling of her husband's journey through TBI and the toll it took on her family is about so much more than brain injury: it's about the heartlessness of healthcare providers, the experience of sudden downward turns in fortune, how the best parents can inadvertently create a terrible home environment for their child, what it is like to have caregiving thrust upon you, ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Kristin rated it really liked it
While Crimmins goes into great detail about her husband's condition in the days and weeks immediately following his getting hit on the head by an out of control boat, this book is a very educational account of the effects of traumatic brain injury on the patient plus those around him. Crimmins' husband, Alan, is fortunate, as many people with the type of injury he received remain mildly functional and live in nursing homes, and he lives at home, drives, and returns to work. That said, Crimmins m ...more
May 22, 2013 Liralen rated it liked it
Interesting, and doubly so for the sense of limbo that prevails. The book was published in 2000, but much of it was written earlier, when her husband was just three or so years out and still adjusting -- so it's hard to know how much more he improved, or has improved, since then, or what lasting effects it had on the people around him.

The author died in 2009 following complications from surgery, but some quick poking on the internet leads me to believe that (view spoiler)
Dec 16, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it
An honest, sometimes painful, sometimes humorous, account of a family's struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Harrowing in parts, especially when discussing the details of the accident and the initial shock, plus the fights to find coverage for needed treatments. Crimmins doesn't spare us the difficult details, nor the small victories along the way, as she and her daughter work to rebuild their life despite the personality changes in the man who is their husband and father. A fascinating g ...more
Sheila Rose
Jan 01, 2015 Sheila Rose rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
As a Speech-Language Pathologist at a rehabilitation hospital, including a student placement on our locked brain injury unit, I can say with confidence this is by far the most accurate portrayal of the rehabilitation process following a TBI that I have read to date. Crimmins use of the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale to organize and highlight the different stages of recovery each chapter was ingenious. This book highlights not only the profound effects of a brain injury on an individual, but the grievi ...more
Aug 21, 2007 rivka rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in how the brain works
Amazing book about the aftermath of the serious brain injury of a loved one. Wrenching and moving and funny by turns, this book pulls no punches. Open and honest about the many difficulties and challenges, yet loving and hopeful.

There is a fair bit of language and some fairly explicit scenes -- unsurprising, given that a significant symptom of brain injury is loss of inhibitions. Unlike too many books, the language is not used for effect; it is simply part of the truthful telling of the aftereff
Chance Lee
Apr 22, 2011 Chance Lee rated it did not like it
Shelves: college-reading
I hated this book. It's badly written, and focuses more on whining about health care than it does on TBI and its effects. The author lacks any sympathy for anyone else, yet she expects readers to feel sorry for her plight. I only feel sorry for her daughter, having to live with a TBI father and a horrible mother incapable of dealing with anything with level-headedness and grace.
How can a memoir manage to be both heart-breakingly raw and yet also informative? I'm not sure, but Cathy Crimmins has achieved just that with this compelling true story about her husband's traumatic brain injury (TBI), his recovery, and its effects on her, their young daughter, and their friends and families. It seems "inappropriate" to say I enjoyed this book, but Crimmins is an excellent writer who vividly depicts how her life got turned upside down (and went "kablooey") when her husband expe ...more
Cynthia Brodowska
Jun 20, 2017 Cynthia Brodowska rated it really liked it
Shelves: top-favs
I could not stop reading this book. I had never thought so deeply about brain trauma and it's implications on personality and behavior. I will not lie and say this is an easy read- at times it is almost unbearably sad but if you are an empath and obsessed with psychology and shit about the brain, then you will learn a lot. I think this book would be helpful for anyone who has a family member recovering form TBI and also anyone working with anyone with brain damage in a behavioral setting.
Dec 31, 2016 Sara rated it it was ok
I thought this book was overall a good insight to what family going through the journey of brain damage have to go through. This book showed how Cathy Crimmins had to adjust to her new life after her husband, Alan, was in a traumatic speedboat accident that resulted in severe brain injury. This author did a great job expressing the thoughts and feelings of the characters going through these events. The one critic I have for this book is to organize events and ideas better. I noticed that at some ...more
Jan 03, 2011 Liza rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: OTs, PTs, SLPs, neuroscientists, everyone
Recommended to Liza by: @mtmarySLP
A few years ago I read the much-hyped The Year of Magical Thinking and was disappointed. Reading this book makes me understand far more why I had that reaction. Of course Didion is an extraordinary writer and thinker, but I didn't get the sense that she was an extraordinary feeler. The magical thinking is often applied to herself. I have grieved and watched my mother grieve, and I didn't connect with Didion she presented her experience, because it didn't ring true to me. (And I am a WASP, so I u ...more
Apr 12, 2008 Cindy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: caregivers
Recommended to Cindy by: Gwen H, nurse extraordinaire!
After her husband sustains a severe head injury in a boating accident, the author describes completely losing the man she married to traumatic brain injury (TBI). The husband who awakens from a coma is, at best, hurt, broken, and confused. At worst, he has rages and fits, he kicks and bites, does not know his wife and child, and is abusive and dangerous. The book spans a life of one man three years post-injury, vividly relating his actions and the absurd sequelae as his brain bleeds, bruises, sw ...more
Diana Bogan
Jan 01, 2012 Diana Bogan rated it really liked it
This is the first work by Cathy Crimmins I've read and it feels strange, due to the subject matter, to say that I enjoyed it. While it wasn't a page-turner that I couldn't put down, I did find that I looked forward to the small pockets of time that I might be able to fit in a short chapter.

I was morbidly fascinated by the memoir. I didn't find myself gripped by any transformation on Cathy's part, like the cover quotes suggested I would become, rather I found myself wanting to know more about how
Lammi Hearne-Sirman
Dec 07, 2015 Lammi Hearne-Sirman rated it it was amazing
I was recommended this book after attending a two day conference on brain injury rehabilitation.

As a Specialist Social Worker in a community brain injury rehabilitation centre I have both a professional and personal interest in this subject area. I was particularly pleased that this was an account from a 'Carers' perspective describing the journey though rehabilitation and recovery from an angle that sometimes gets overlooked.

Brain injury (in this case, traumatic brain injury) is often referre
May 27, 2009 Tish rated it it was amazing
A fascinating true story about a lawyer, written by his journalist wife, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI)while on vacation in Canada. The story tells about his difficult recovery and the changed personality and diminished cognitive abilities. However, it also tells the story about the Canadian healthcare system as compared to that in the U.S. He was medivac'd to a hospital where he received the latest in care for TBI. During his lengthy hospital stay, they never once asked about insur ...more
Sep 18, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing
In 1996, the author's husband Alan sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motor boat accident while they were vacationing in Canada with their 7-year-old daughter. This memoir documents Alan's accident and process of "recovery." Recovery is a relative term with TBI's because people with dramatic brain injuries such as Alan's never fully recover. Although Alan's recovery is remarkable by severe TBI standards, he will never again be the man she married. Published 4 years after the injury, t ...more
Nov 06, 2014 LibMomTBI rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbi, biography-memoir
This is the book that started me down my "bibliotherapy" road after our son's traumatic brain injury.

An acquaintance who works at recommended it and I read this while my son was in intensive care. While dated medically (reason for 4 stars), that didn't keep the book from resonating strongly -- it gives a clear picture of the impact of a head injury on one particular family, even with a "good" outcome. As my son moved through acute rehab it made so many things less intimidating (e.
Oct 14, 2009 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-and-memoir
Very well-written account of the author's first year as caregiver to her brain-damaged husband. However, perhaps it's my background working in the civil court system, but I had a hard time accepting Crimmins' implication that there wasn't money for medical treatment aside from what their HMO would authorize. Granted she wasn't present at the accident, but beyond stating that "a woman driving a boat hit him", there's no further mention of the circumstances thereafter by her ... with one exception ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Maricris rated it really liked it
This book is about human life and love, and how we as a species are so resilient. I applaud the author for making the subject of her husband's near death and difficult recovery as light hearted as she did. We humans have an amazing way of making light of anything. We have to find humor in the scariest of moments to keep our sanity.

As a child, no matter how upset I was, and no matter how hard I was crying, I could laugh. And those who know me best have used that against me in many a moment of de
Jul 24, 2011 Devon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
Blew my mind. Raised all kinds of questions about the intersection between brain, mind, spirit and soul. Who are we, and what does it take to change that?

"None of these analogies [a computer, a highway system] addresses the myster of personality. Who are we? Is the spirit of a person, his or her essence, merely an accident of chemicals and neurons? If Alan or anybody else can get hit on the head and become a different person, what does that say about the very nature of being human?"

"Still, I mis
Feb 15, 2015 Sue rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give it a better review

Seeing the overwhelmingly wonderful reviews for this book, I had no reason to believe I would be disappointed.
I was wrong.

I want to be sure to say that the family has my full empathy. I know that what they have all gone through, and continue to go through, is nothing I take lightly.

That said, the book was an account. I found myself cheering everyone on, of course....but not liking any of them. I appreciated the author's honesty throughout, but I can't sa
Betsy Ellis
Dec 24, 2016 Betsy Ellis rated it really liked it
Cathy Crimmins and her family were just leaving an idyllic family vacation on a remote lake in Canada when her husband was involved in a freak accident. He was run over by an out-of-control speedboat while sitting in his rowboat. He suffered a massive closed head injury and spent months in the hospital and years in rehab. And as is common with these types of injuries, he not only had to relearn most of the skills needed to function as an adult, but he also went through a major personality change ...more
Apr 01, 2015 Cathy rated it really liked it
At this point I've read a half dozen books on traumatic brain injury - most written by people who had sustained a TBI. I was reading them to gain insight as a caregiver for someone with an injured brain - how did people cope? what was coming next? how do victims react in this situation? The books all basically said to caregivers "don't upset the TBI person Do what he says but don't let him hurt himself." Not very helpful. This book is different. Cathy Crimmins is a professional writer for one th ...more
Pr Latta
Aug 09, 2013 Pr Latta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: caregivers, friends and loved ones of TBI patients
Recommended to Pr by: Dawn @
I read this while my son was in intensive care after a traumatic brain injury. While dated medically (reason for 4 stars), that didn't keep the book from resonating strongly -- it gives a clear picture of the impact of a head injury on one particular family, even with a "good" outcome. As my son moved through acute rehab it made so many things less intimidating (e.g., elopement beds, certain behaviors) and made me grateful for many possible behaviors that did NOT occur. For me, the power of the ...more
Jenna (Bookiemoji)
Oct 11, 2015 Jenna (Bookiemoji) rated it it was ok
I cannot rate this book higher than a two.

Having a spouse w/ a newly acquired TBI (two months prior to reading this) and (ironically) a 7 year old daughter, I can relate to the accident and the rehabilitation and the family make up, but I cannot relate to the author and her family's lifestyle. I found myself amazed in the similarities to her spouse's early recovery and my own husband's, though the later half of the book had me rolling my eyes far too often at the obvious privileged lifestyle the
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